They regard the affection of a dog as indicating their own goodness and worth, whereas it is well known that the worst criminals are often “very good'” with dogs and children.
Not one dog owner in a thousand, I suppose, troubles to think whether he deserves a dog, whether he is worth the affection that a dog bestows.
Man has made a special favorite of the dog and elevated (or lowered according to your point of view) the dog from the position of an animal merely employed to make hunting easier, to that of a personal companion and friend.
Evolution is a very slow process, and even though breeders may work wonders with a dog in 50 years, the fact that the animal has a function in Nature, apart from Man, should not be forgotten.
A dog should have some point in life, apart from its meals and an occasional pat or word of affection from his master. Even a “pet dog” should be given duties so that it develops self-respect. The duties may be simple, such as looking after children, but it is undoubtedly true that a “working” dog is the happiest.
You had only to see the glint in a sheep dog’s eye to realize this. The worst sin of the dog owner, in my opinion, is to make his pet feel entirely dependent upon him, dependent for food, caresses, and so on.
Dogs Never Grow Up
Dog owners, it must be admitted, make this mistake most often with lapdogs. They sometimes make the same mistake with children, the difference being that children eventually grow up and see the folly of it, whereas a dog never grows up.
We are apt to forget that although centuries of companionship have brought the dog close to the human being, it is actually an animal and lives in a different world. A dog can understand only the broadest of human emotions and can have no conception of some of them.
On the other hand, he sees and hears certain things which are hidden from us. It is perfectly easy to make a whistle which makes no sound audible to human beings but is heard by a dog. Similarly, a dog’s still strong sense of smell gives him a different “outlook” from his master.
I do not agree with those who say that all things in Nature are good in their present life. I can conceive of certain plants being vicious. But the dog has nice characteristics by our standards because he is used to human beings.
For biological reasons, the dog is clever, whereas the horse is stupid. Many people say that the horse is clever simply because this much-abused servant is unable to cry out, but any circus owner will tell you that the horse is, in fact, stupid.
The tricks done by dogs show intelligence, but I have little sympathy with the dog owner who teaches his pet tricks simply to show off. It was the great Dr. Johnson, I think, who said of a dog standing on its hind legs that what was remarkable was not that the dog did it well, but that it did it at all.
Tricks that demonstrate intelligence are in another category. One of my dogs undoubtedly knew the sound of my car horn. Although hundreds of cars passed the house every day he would take no notice of any except my own when I sounded the horn as I drove past.
Sense of Original Sin
Dogs have a sense of “original sin,” and I daresay many stories could be told to illustrate this fact. My own dog, when he heard the key put in the latch would jump off the bed upstairs with a thump. His sense of sin warned him, but he was not sufficiently intelligent to realize that I should hear him landing on the floor. True, he went into another room downstairs very quietly!
Some dog owners do not deserve their dogs because they have no use for them except when they are well and happy. When the dog gets old they have him “put away,” saying that it is putting him out of his misery. But is the dog really in misery? All the arguments against the euthanasia of human beings can be used for dogs, and I personally would not have an old friend destroyed purely on scientific reasoning. Much less would I excuse myself on sentimental reasons.
One of the arguments of these advocating euthanasia is that we “put away an injured animal out of kindness; should we do less for a human being.” This really gives the game away, for we usually have the animal destroyed because we cannot be bothered to nurse it. Animals do not feel pain to the degree of human beings.
I once had a cat stricken with paralysis. It could not use its legs, but I do not think it felt any pain. I was told it ought to be “put away” (people don’t like saying, “It ought to be murdered”). I made an arrangement with wheels so that the cat could get about, and it seemed perfectly happy. In 18 months it entirely recovered the use of its legs. Was I wrong in refusing to have it killed?
Only too often the “vet” is only consulted when a dog has to be “put away.” I have no sympathy with people who keep dogs, and won’t be bothered to sacrifice a little time to exercise them or to take the trouble to learn if they feed them properly, and who have them killed as soon as they show signs of being seriously ill.
They don’t deserve dogs. Neither can they expect to own the soul of any creature.